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Democrat writer, local professor make history

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Aug 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Two journalists close to the heart of The Lebanon Democrat will be inducted Tuesday into the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame in Murfreesboro. 

Outdoors writer Larry Woody and Lebanon resident Leon Alligood will join two other Tennessee journalists at 4:30 p.m. at Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center for the fifth-annual induction ceremony.

Since October 2007, Larry “Woodrow” Woody has provided coverage of outdoors and auto racing news for the sports section of The Lebanon Democrat. He is a native of Crossville. 

From big cities to small towns, Woody has received multiple honors for his writing. He was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Writers Hall of Fame, International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Martin Methodist College Sports Hall of Fame, making this his fourth induction into a hall of fame for his writing. 

He earned Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year three times. 

Woody was a Vietnam combat reporter, and he covered auto racing for the Tennessean as well as a range of sports from high school football to the Southeastern Conference, serving as the Vanderbilt beat writer for many years.

“It’s an honor, obviously,” Woody said Wednesday. “It’s humbling because there are a lot of deserving journalists in Tennessee that should be ahead of me. I’m honored that they chose me.”

While this hall of fame covers all aspects of journalism, Woody’s career has focused exclusively on sports. He currently writes three outdoors pieces a week for the Democrat and at least one auto-racing story per month.

“That makes it extra special because it covers all kinds of journalism,” Woody said. “I’ve always been in sports journalism from the time I started with the Crossville Chronicle. I’ve always enjoyed it and continue to enjoy it, including my current job with The Lebanon Democrat.”

Stephen Leon Alligood lives in the Wilson County countryside and has ties to The Democrat through Middle Tennessee State University, since he taught several reporters who have come and gone through the years, along with two on the current editorial staff. He is a former reporter for the Nashville Banner and the Tennessean, and he covered the 101st Airborne in Afghanistan as an embedded reporter. 

“I had 30 good years as a deadline journalist, got to see the world, interviewed a lot of interesting people. I produced a body of work that told the kinds of stories I like to find and write. But in many ways, I believe I’m having more of an impact on journalism by teaching at MTSU,” Alligood said. “I get to play a role in shaping young reporters and explaining our job as it relates to the survival of democracy. And I get to show students the power of storytelling to affect change, personally and culturally.” 

Alligood and his wife, Bertie, have lived on what they call Firefly Hill for more than 30 years. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in 1975 and master’s in creative nonfiction from Goucher College in 2007. Alligood is an active half-marathoner and is father to two sons, Arthur and Shepard, and three granddaughters, Corban, Elsie and Lucy. His work in journalism and teaching has touched many lives throughout the region.

“When I opened the letter from the Hall of Fame folks, my first inclination was to laugh. I sat in my car at the end of my driveway just laughing at the notion. If they’d asked me, I could have rattled off a dozen journalists more worthy than I, but they didn’t ask me,” Alligood said. “It’s humbling to receive this honor. It only seems like a few years ago I was starting my first job at a weekly in Madison, Ga.  But when I look at my sons and my beautiful granddaughters, the time that has elapsed is certainly apparent.” 

Alligood has won national, regional and state journalism awards and is currently an associate professor of journalism at MTSU.

The induction ceremony will welcome Demetrai Kalodimos, WSMV-TV Channel 4 news anchor, as the emcee, as well as guest speakers Ron Fryar, owner and publisher of the Cannon Courier and immediate past-president of the Tennessee Press Association; Whit Adamson, president of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters; Ken Paulson, dean of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment; and MTSU journalism professor Larry Burriss.

Anyone who wishes to attend the ceremony should RSVP by Friday by contacting Hooper Penuel via email at hhpvote@comcast.net or by calling 615-347-1672. The cost is $30, to be paid at the registration table.

The Tennessee Journalism Hall Fame is an independent partner with MTSU, recognizing individuals who have distinguished themselves through news or business management, leadership in the industry or in the ordinary practice of journalism. Inductees can include reporters, writers, editors, publishers, news directors and other managers, as well as those who have excelled in advertising or public relations, and journalism advertising and public relations education. Inductees may be living or deceased, native Tennesseans or non-natives who spent a substantial part of their careers in Tennessee.

Sports Editor Andy Reed contributed to this story.

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